For Joe Tornielli, it ranks as a great discovery.
The manager of a Ramsey-based department store had spent the last eight years in a Wayne apartment and wanted new digs. He’d driven past the Vermella Lyndhurst development and then saw a Google announcement about Vermella Crossing in Kearny.
“I came to the site the day before they opened the sales office but they let me in and we got everything going,” Tornielli recalled. In July, he became the first tenant at the 150-unit residential complex along Bergen Ave. built by Russo Development of Carlstadt.
Today, the almost-completed six-building complex is reported to be two-thirds leased and, of those units, about half are occupied. Full occupancy is projected by March 2016. A ribbon-cutting was held last Tuesday.
Developer Ed Russo, meanwhile, said he’s hoping to complete acquisition of commercial properties on the north side of Bergen, just off Schuyler Ave., “before the end of 2016” which he plans to tear down and replace with an additional 80 rental units.
“We’re still waiting for some existing leases to expire,” he explained.
Still in the works is another Russo project to redevelop a portion of the east side of Passaic Ave. to create a 458-unit residential complex for which Russo and the town are in negotiations on a redevelopment agreement. And there are other Russo developments on the drawing board in Bergen, Essex and Union counties.
Meanwhile, the one- and two-bedroom apartments at Vermella Crossing are filling up. Each unit is outfitted with hardwood floors, quartz countertops in kitchens and bathrooms, stainless steel appliances, full-size washers and dryers, pendant lighting and kitchen tile backsplashes.
One-bedroom units are renting from $1,665 to $1,735 a month while two-bedrooms are going for a range of $2,295 to $2,375, according to Vermella operations director John Yurkow.
For a $30 a month amenities fee, residents can use the development’s fitness center, dog park (Vermella is “pet friendly”) and a shuttle to the PATH station in Harrison. There is a combination of garage and surface parking available; garage spaces are optional at $150 per month.
Mayor Alberto Santos hailed the project as an actualization of part of the town’s “redevelopment vision,” in which Russo, “when you include costs of land acquisition, cleanup and construction, has made a $30 million investment and we’re looking forward to the next phase across the street.”
The mayor insisted, however, that the project “would not have happened without a long-term [30-year] tax abatement,” which translates to a first-year PILOT (payment in lieu of taxation) to the town of $375,000 which, he noted, is “five times more” than what Kearny was getting when the property was dormant.
Future PILOTs could be higher, Santos said, due to a formula that adjusts payment levels with changes in inflation rates and rental increases. PILOTs “can be an important tool to get a developer to come into Kearny” if other factors – like environmental issues – weigh against the prospect, he added.
As for Vermella’s potential impact on local schools, the mayor said the project has, so far, generated “five school-age children,” of whom one is attending Kearny High and another, a local grammar school.
Now it’s just a matter of waiting for the project’s construction to be finished and the remaining units to be occupied.
Tornielli said the Russo staff “has been phenomenal” in dealing with some minor maintenance issues that cropped up. “My ceiling fan was wobbling a little but they fixed it in less than 24 hours,” he said. “And the amenities are great. Being a renter for 20 years of my life, I’ve never been made to feel at home like this. I love it here.”